Friday, March 6, 2009

Cookbook Friday: Everyday Italian

I'm starting a new feature on Plum Tart: Cookbook Friday!

Each Friday I'm going to highlight a different cookbook, whether it's something from my extensive collection, a new release, or a recommendation from a friend. Where possible I'll provide a recipe for you to try, one I've had the opportunity to test myself.

I'm kicking things off with the cookbook I used most recently: Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis.

When I first saw Giada De Laurentiis's show, also called Everyday Italian, on Food Network Canada I was skeptical. I thought she was just another pretty face in the Food Network world, with no real experience or knowledge. Then I took note of what she was cooking -- hearty fare with traditional ingredients that looked delicious and not overly complicated. After watching a few shows, and finding out that she schooled at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, my opinion of GDL changed. She genuinely knew what she was talking about, plus had a deep appreciation for her family's recipes passed down through the generations.

I received Everyday Italian as a Christmas present from my mom two years ago and it's become one of my go-to cookbooks. It's broken down into sections, among them Antipasti, Sauces, Pasta, Polenta and Risotto, and Dolci (sweets).

There are further subsections for some of the basics, such as making homemade pesto and roasting peppers, as well as a handy list of pantry staples. The recipes are straightforward, the instructions clear and easy to follow. And the photos are beautiful. I don't require photos in a cookbook but they certainly make flipping through it a more pleasurable experience.

Among the recipes I've tried from GDL's Everyday Italian: White Bean and Tuna Salad, Prosciutto Purses, Marinara Sauce, Simple Bolognese, Seared Rib-Eye Steak with Arugula-Roasted Pepper Salad, Chicken Cacciatore, and Chocolate Amaretti Cake. That last recipe went over very well with the friends I made it for -- it has a texture somewhere between a cake and a cookie, is very chocolatey, but at the same time not sickeningly sweet.

The other night I made one of the first recipes I saw Giada cook on her show -- Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe (pictured). I've reprinted her recipe as it is in the book, but if you're looking to lighten it up feel free to sub in spiced turkey sausage for the pork sausage. That's what I did and it was delicious.

Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

2 bunches of broccoli rabe, stalks trimmed and quartered crosswise
12 ounces dried orecchiette pasta or other small shaped pasta, such as farfalle or penne
3 tbsp olive oil
1 pound pork sausage, casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Strain the broccoli rabe, reserving all the cooking liquid. Set the broccoli rabe aside. Cook the orecchiette in the same pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until the sausage is brown and juices form, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Add the pasta and enough reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten. Stir the Parmesan cheese, salt to taste, and pepper into the pasta mixture. Transfer to pasta bowls and serve.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

Courtesy Everyday Italian, Giada De Laurentiis, Clarkson Potter, 2005.

Stay tuned for more cookbook reviews each Friday. Thanks to Erin for the brilliant idea! What's your favourite cookbook? Email me at with your suggestions and perhaps I'll feature one of them in the weeks to com.



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